Friday 6 May 2011

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review XIII - Ideas for Electoral Reform

As we savour the returns

As the election season ends in Nigeria it is important to lay out in some form a whole series of ideas for electoral reform to improve on the experiences we had for the elections in April 2011.

It goes without saying that despite the view of cynics and sceptics about the elections a lot was done to make them freer, fairer and more credible than any we have had before. Even the much heralded 1993 elections were said to be manipulated [1] as averred by the then chairman of the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON), Professor Okon Uya.

The length of the season

It is however the prerogative of those who are aggrieved by this electoral season to avail themselves of the tribunal process with a quest for justice devoid of desperation and considerate of the fact that Nigeria must not be held back primarily for the satisfaction of the ambitions of the few.

These are however the matters that should become part of the discussion for electoral reform and implementation before the end of the next legislative term.

The electoral season should span at least a 12 month period allowing for voter registration, register inspection, party registration, candidate registration, campaign season, voting, results publication and expedited electoral dispute resolution.

Reusable voter registration

It is unlikely that Nigeria is ready for an electronic voting system; however, the voter registration needs to be amalgamated with the National Identity Card Scheme with added biometric information and a fixing with local government area based on the residential address within 6 months of the elections.

Consideration must be given to chipping the identity card and probably adding RFID data that stores allocated Polling Unit which can be updated if the voter changes their address at the local electoral office.

Voters only need validate their registration and eligibility to vote in what should be termed registration clearance months allowing for new voters to be added, the dead to be eliminated, circumstances to be updated and so on.

Competence over age

In terms of eligibility for office, consideration should be given to at least the age barriers to elective office by at least 5 years, the talent pool of the youth who in other endeavours are competent, able and successful are unfairly excluded by reason of age from elective office as political jobbers hog positions indefinitely.

Considering the pool of talent in the Nigerian population term limits should be set on all elective offices to allow others to contribute to nation building, it may also foster better mentoring rather than godfatherism and the nepotism that currently plagues the system.

Term limits

No one should have the exclusive inclination to think no other Nigerian can try for office and possibly perform better, after a set number of terms, two for executive office and a maximum of three for legislative office the said politicians have to give way.

The candidates for office should be known within a minimum of 90 days before the elections allowing for INEC to adequately inform the electorate of the choices they have. All nomination disputes must be completed at least 60 days before the elections.

INEC should have the right to penalise the abuse of equal access to media and resources to engage with the public doing the campaign process. Part of the sanctions that INEC can use should include barring the offending party’s candidate from contesting the elections.

Voting and sanctions

The modified open ballot system should be retained however the reporting process should have the paper trail as well as the use of mobile data transfers from the Polling Unit direct to the INEC headquarters.

Where electoral malpractice has been discovered and fully investigated to identify the culprits, the responsible party will forfeit the votes tallied, if that election remains valid, in the case there the election needs to be rescheduled, the offending party will forfeit the right to present a candidate for the reschedule election and where the offence is egregious the said party under whatever guise should be made to forfeit the right to present a candidate for the next two elections at the level when the crime was committed.

This means a party might forfeit the right for presenting candidates for the State House of Assembly, House of Representatives, The Senate, Governorship or Presidency.

Named persons for each party should be held criminally responsible for electoral offences committed by their party members and they by the strength of the law should not be able to abdicate their responsibilities.

Sanctions like this should greatly minimise incidents of electoral rigging.

Where reports of intimidation, harassment, bias, tampering or observer access is restricted, INEC should err on the side of fairness and make results from such locations tentative pending investigation with the likelihood of those results being voided.

Dispute resolution

After the results are announced and contestants find need to contest the results, all disputes must be completed with 365 days of the election under dispute.

No incumbent whose election is being contested should serve in electoral office longer than one-quarter of the complete term of office at which point the dispute must have been resolved or a new election should hold.

If the incumbent is found to have engaged in electoral misconduct, that person will not be eligible to contest in the new election and the party the person represents should not be able to present a candidate for that election for the next two terms.

The measures have to be draconian with effective deterrents to ensure all parties and their officials play by the rules. The civil courts with respect to electoral matters should work in concert with INEC to bolster its independence and foster a surer democracy by upholding the letter of the law to its full remit.

Miscellaneous reform issues

The use of ad-hoc staff should be encouraged but INEC should expedite all means of payment and provide the maximum security for all engaged staff.

An electoral recall process should be set up to test a vote of confidence in the elected office at mid-term, if the incumbent is unseated the newly elected person shall only serve out the remaining period of the term and have to contest to retain the office.


[1] The Sun News On-line | Every election since 1922 has been manipulated –Okon Uya, ex-NECON boss

Reviews written about the elections

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review I

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review II - New Election Dates

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review III - Who votes on Saturday.

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review IV - Part I to Voting

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review IV - Part II - We can

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review V

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review VI - Report to Prevent Rigging

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review VII - Change!

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review VIII - A President-Elect

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review IX - Analysing the Presidential Results

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review X - The North

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review XI - A functioning democracy?

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review XII - Altogether acceptable

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